Stuck between their teenage hood and their childhood, tweens are described as being between the ages of 9 and 12 and boy there is a lot going on during this stage of life!
Firstly, we want to acknowledge that having an engaging conversation with your kids at this age can be challenging and that is completely normal. At every stage and milestone, there are different triumphs as well as difficulties. Both you and your child are learning to grow, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
Your tween child is no longer your little baby and they might even be reinforcing this point to you. But they’re not yet emotionally mature enough to be given some of the freedoms they are demanding, and this can leave them … well… a little impulsive and moody at times.
So how can you have a ‘normal’ conversation with tweens?
Here are our best tips.
- Remember when you were a tween?
Did you know, girls go through puberty between 9 -14 and for boys, it’s later towards 12-16.
Do you remember your puberty days? How confusing and overwhelming it all felt? How your world revolved around your friendship group? When we become parents, we sometimes forget those days and set adult expectations on our kids.
The first step to holding an engaging conversation with your tween is to put yourself in their shoes and remember how you felt when you were their age.
- They’re developing a new way of thinking.
Their brains are literally developing new ways to understand the world!
Especially the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for decision making, judgement and planning. This explains your child’s impulsive behaviours (and at times risky) without considering consequences. Also, tweens & teens engage in risky behaviours because their brains are hypersensitive to reward.
Your tween child is beginning to build more logic and reason. Making mistakes in their judgement is all part of their learning (even if it drives you mad!).
- Closed doors.
The physical closing of the door may feel as though your child (your baby!) is suddenly shutting you out. This can bring feelings of hurt, confusion and anger in you.
Your tween child is going through a lot. New feelings, emotions, thoughts, knowledge, let alone their physical changes - it’s a lot to handle and overwhelming at times.
These massive feelings will create the need for privacy to protect their vulnerability. We as adults do this too.
When your child is choosing privacy over you, let them know that YOUR door is always open for them and you love them regardless.
It’s important to create a safe space for your child especially when everything feels volatile and fragile to them. The trust must go both ways. Could your child be vulnerable with you (even about something bad) with the confidence that they won’t feel attacked?
- Keep cool and stay calm.
Your emotions can easily get the best of you.
Your child may be increasingly defensive and even say hurtful and offensive things. DO NOT take this personally.
Even if you don’t agree with your child’s thoughts and actions, this is their unfiltered way of expressing themselves.
Remember they’re still learning to communicate their thoughts succinctly, let alone develop logic and reason.
So instead of feeling offended, focus on accepting that they made a mistake and that they’re learning to be a person!
Instead of pointing out everything they did wrong, guide them. Show through demonstration what the ‘correct’ way of reacting to something bad is. So stay calm, set boundaries (e.g. you can be mad but you don’t have to be rude) and communicate this.
- Avoid loaded questions.
What is a “loaded question”? It is a trick question, that assumes the person being asked did a bad thing. E.g. “do you still suck your thumb?”
Here are some examples of loaded questions parents say (warning, this may bring flashbacks to your childhood!):
- “You know I have to wake up an hour early because you are never ready on time?”
- “Why are you acting like this? Don’t you know how annoying that is?”
- “Why can’t you be quiet?”
- “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Don’t be surprised if your child gets defensive as a response. These types of questions highlight only the problem or conflict, rather than the solution.
Instead, ask honest questions that hands the responsibility of finding solutions to your child:
- “Adam, do you know how you can get up on time?”
- “Hailey right now is quiet time. You can make noise and play during playtime at 3pm.”
- “You beat the boss in the game? That’s amazing! I can see you feel really proud of how you played. I want to hear all about it at dinner tonight.”
We understand that tweens can be difficult to deal with sometimes - it’s a new person unfolding in front of you! Remember that you were once a child too and that the development is temporary and completes in due time.
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